Senior BJP leader and Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi came under fire on Wednesday after he asked the reporters to go out of his Press Conference when asked about the deaths of children form suspected encephalitis. The deadly disease, which is yet to be identified, has reportedly killed over 150 children in Bihar over the past one fortnight although the officials confirm only 113 deaths.

Reporters attending the press conference of the deputy chief minister were left stunned when the latter kept on ducking questions over suspected encephalitis deaths turning into an epidemic form. The deputy CM had held the press conference after a meeting with bankers when the media people grilled him over the government’s failure to tackle the disease in the past 15 years.

“If the reporters want to ask questions on children, please go out (of the Press conference)…I already told you this Press conference is about banking committees,” Modi bluntly told the reporters who wanted to know about the condition of children suffering from the deadly disease in Muzaffarpur and around. Strangely, Modi, who has been very vocal against the previous RJD regime, refused to say anything over the issue despite the fact that barely a day back, he had visited the Muzaffarpur hospital in the company of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to take stock of the situation.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is no exception. He too ducked the same question on Tuesday when media people confronted him during a function organized in the Bihar assembly premises to pay tribute to Anugrah Narayan Singh on his birth anniversary. This was not all. The chief minister was greeted with angry protests by the victims’ family members when he visited the Muzaffarpur hospital 17 days after the disease had broken out.

As such, the callous attitude of the BJP ministers has come in for bitter criticism from all quarters at this critical time when the cries of wailing mothers have filled the entire atmosphere with grief and pathos. The callousness on the part of the NDA ministers was on full display when Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey asked reporters about the scores in India’s cricket match against Pakistan on Sunday while Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan held a press conference to share information with the media after visiting Muzaffarpur hospital. Pandey was present at Dr Vardhan’s press conference.

Dr Vardhan’s deputy Ashwini Kumar Choubey displayed even more insensitivity when he was found taking a nap during the same press briefing over the deaths of children from suspected encephalitis. Choubey, however, claimed he was meditating by closing his eyes.

Strangely, the health experts are yet to diagnose the disease though it has continued striking the children every year since 1995 and in the past nine years alone it has killed over 500 children. While some experts have termed it as encephalitis, others say it is “acute encephalitis syndrome” (AES).

Another group of health experts has linked the children’s deaths due to hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar. Yet another group of experts has blamed the malnourishment and litchis for the deaths of children. But what is shocking is that the disease and the deaths of innocent children are yet to be stopped.